|Led by Chief Scientist Andy Bruckner, the team set off on their mission|
Crown of Thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), or 'COTS', are coral eating animals that naturally occur on Indo-Pacific reefs. In small numbers they actually play an important role on the reef- by feeding on the faster growing coral species they allow room for slower growing corals to flourish. However, for reasons which are not always apparent, there will sometimes be huge outbreaks of the starfish, hundreds or even thousands on a reef, which can cause irreversible damage to the corals they are feeding on. On the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where there have been several outbreaks of the voracious species, coral cover has declined by more than 50% over the last 30 years (AIMS study) and the Crown of Thorns starfish are thought to be one of the biggest contributors to this loss.
|Bright purple with about 20 arms, this beautiful sea star has poisonous spines and shouldn't be touched. |
Photo Credit: Andy Bruckner; Living Oceans Foundation
|In one dive, we brought up nearly 100 COTS!|
Photo credit: Stefan Andrews; Living Oceans Foundation